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By Mike Luce
This week's preview is brought to you by: Chris Berman, Corie "The Other" Blount, Dr. James Andrews, the phrase "game-time decision," the Wildcat formation, and the Florida State University Board of Trustees.
As always, the following is for entertainment purposes only.
Game: #21 Nebraska (-3) @ #24 Missouri (8:00 p.m., Thursday)
Comment: I have some roots in The Show Me State. While that side of the family claims ties to Washington U and KU, rather than Mizzou, I still have a soft spot in my heart for the Tigers. Plus, talking about the University of Missouri gives me a chance to bust out the "Mizz-er-uh" pronunciation used by Ma Luce. That always gives me a kick.
As for things more football-related, I am taking the Tigers Thursday night. Why not? I've had worse ideas.
Mizzou entered the Top 25 this week with a 4-0 record, although those wins have come against teams with a combined record of 6-12. (Including Illinois' very own Fightin' Illini, who lost 37-9.) The Tigers record against the number is a respectable 2-1 thus far, and I like the idea of getting points at home in prime time.
Nebraska still seeks an impressive win after spending most of the season on the right side of the Directional School Creampuff Equation. The Cornhuskers have had a lengthy break since walloping Louisiana-Lafayette 55-0 on September 26. I wonder if Nebraska has had too long to think about the 52-17 drubbing they suffered against the Tigers last year.
The history of this series suggests the game will be lopsided in one direction or another - none of the past 10 games have been decided by less than 10 points. (For gamblers, this means you might as well take the money line.) If the first "away" outing by Cornhusker freshman QB Zac "INT" Lee (136 yards, 2 INTs at Va Tech) is any indication, Nebraska might be hard-pressed to produce big plays with the passing game. I like the Tigers to hang in the game and pull away in the second half.
One last note - for those of you enticed by the "over" in this game, keep an eye on the weather. Heavy rain could start late Wednesday and continue through kickoff.
Game: #1 Florida (-7.5) @ #4 LSU (7:00 p.m., Saturday)
Comment: Break open the piggy bank and put it all on the Gators. I'm not kidding.
Game: Wisconsin @ #9 Ohio State (-16, 2:30 p.m., Saturday)
Comment: Can this game somehow go down as a loss for both teams? Blech. I don't like the Badgers, but 16 points seems like too much for the Buckeyes to handle. I'm staying away.
Game: Michigan @ #12 Iowa (-8, 7:00 p.m., Saturday)
Comment: Nothing would surprise me. All I know is that I would rather not bet against Michigan's "Forcier of Nature" rookie QB two weeks in a row. Then again, Iowa's D looked awfully stout against Penn State. On the other hand, the Hawkeyes struggled to beat creampuffs Northern Iowa and Arkansas State. Even so, all of Michigan's wins have come in Ann Arbor . . . you get the idea.
Unless you have some unique insight (and if so, please share), avoid this game.
Game: #13 Oregon (-3.5) @ UCLA (2:30 p.m., Saturday)
Comment: Last week, the Oregon Ducks announced that suspended RB LeGarrette Blount may return to play for the team. Here's a quick recap of how we got here: while leaving the field after Oregon's loss at Boise State in Week 1, Blount lost his head. After taunting Blount, Boise defensive end Byron "Glass Joe" Hout took a right cross to the jaw. As security escorted the irate Blount from the field, he had to be restrained from charging into the stands at a group of hecklers.
Oregon's head coach Chip Kelly consulted with athletic director Mike Belotti before handing down a year-long suspension. As a senior, Blount's college career was over. As a promising NFL prospect, Blount went from a Top 100 pick to - in the words of ESPN's Todd McShay - "undraftable." Note: this is the same league that made Maurice "Grey Goose" Clarett a third-round draft pick. Blount was to keep his scholarship and be allowed to attend practices, but not play in games.
Now Oregon seems about to make a calculated about-face.
In a story reported by ESPN, journalist Mark Fainaru-Wada discovered that Blount's family began discussing reinstatement with Belotti within days of the suspension. Blount asked for help in these conversations from the non-profit NCAA Alumni Association, which in turn enlisted attorney Rob Carey. Carey successfully represented a class-action case against Ticketmaster this year, claiming it conspired with the NCAA to run an illegal lottery for tickets to NCAA Tournament games.
If I'm LeGarrette Blount, I'm feeling good about my chances.
But the stakes are high. Blount transferred to Oregon from East Mississippi Community College, effectively signing a contract with Oregon for a shot at the NFL in return for a scholarship. And presumably, an education. Last year, Blount set a school record with seventeen touchdowns. During the pre-season, draftnik Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Blount among the Top 5 running backs in 2009 class.
By all accounts, Blount has humbly accepted his fate. He has attended classes and practices, and issued a formal apology. In short, he has said and done the right things. According to the AP, the student body has joined in as well by sporting tongue-in-cheek "Free Blount" T-shirts.
The school recognizes the power of public relations. In 2001, Oregon paid $250,000 to hang an 80 x 100 billboard in Times Square of QB Joey Harrington. The Ducks intended to support Harrington's Heisman campaign but suffered a severe backlash over the commercialization of college athletes. (Not to mention obnoxious billboards.)
Only now has Oregon hinted that the ban could be lifted. Last Friday, Kelly mentioned seeking out counsel from Dr. Harry Edwards and Tony Dungy. Both men have spoken to Blount as well. Kelly did not bring up Carey's role in the process. Attempting to describe the quandary, Kelly said it is " . . . not a football decision."
I hope Kelly believes that. But it is not, as he went on to say, a "human-being decision." Big-time college football is about winning games, selling tickets, and making money. I hope LeGarrette Blount gets reinstated, drafted by the NFL, and becomes a wonderful father to his newborn son LeGarrette Blount Jr. But if he does, it will have less to do with Tony Dungy's endorsement and more to do with Oregon's desire to avoid a PR debacle and add another warm body to the backfield.
(Still, I like Oregon this weekend. Go Ducks! Free Blount!)
Game: #22 Georgia Tech @ Florida State (-2.5, 7:00 p.m., Saturday)
Comment: I can just hear the pre-game speech from FSU head coach in-waiting Jimbo Fisher now: "OK boys, we're down but we ain't out. Remember, one game at a time. Let's go out and win! Or not, really. Up to you. After all, you could make this easier on everybody by just mailing it in the rest of the way."
I love the Seminoles to win this one for Bobby Bowden's rotting corpse.
The Sports Seal must have had a bit too much Ol' Grand-Dad before filing last week's Report. That's right, the Seal is a Grand-Dad fan - him and Joe Paterno. How those two get along is beyond me . . . maybe because they both smell like old socks. On to the Seal's picks:
~ Boston College (+13.5) @ #5 Virginia Tech
~ #3 Alabama @ #20 Ole Miss (+6)
~ Iowa State @ #16 Kansas (-19.5)
Mike "Chief" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space twice a week. He welcomes your comments.More from Beachwood Sports »
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Posted on Feb 27, 2015